Buffalo, NY—Mayor Byron W. Brown and Congressman Brian Higgins announced that the City of Buffalo Police Department won a competitive national grant through the U.S. Department of Justice’s “Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program” (JMHCP). This program, first authorized in 2004 and updated as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, provides resources to local police departments to form collaborative partnerships that can better respond to individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis, or some other form of distress, with the intent of diverting those individuals to treatment alternatives that may offer a better outcome.
Mayor Brown said, “I want to thank Congressman Higgins, who has been a tireless champion for expanded police funding from the Department of Justice that is designed to help local police departments effectively resolve the challenges officers face on a daily basis. Over the last decade, the mission of policing has evolved from a strictly enforcement model into one that also requires officers and department leadership to embrace a diversion and intervention model as well. That requires our officers to have the proper training and equipment to fulfill that expanded mission. With these additional federal grant funds, we can meet those needs and look to expand the services we have already established so they can continue to meet the diverse calls for service which come from our communities.”
Congressman Higgins said, “This grant supports specialized training by mental health experts in the de-escalation and safe handling of difficult crisis situations police encounter regularly. This innovative and collaborative approach led by Mayor Brown will better serve public safety and get those struggling with addiction or mental health issues the help they need.”
Earlier this year, Mayor Brown announced an innovative partnership with Endeavor Health Services after it secured grant funding to embed clinicians with Buffalo Police Officers in the field as well as at Police Headquarters. A special team of officers—designated the Behavioral Health Team or BHT—underwent intensive training which enabled them to work with the Endeavor clinicians and ensure the City can respond more effectively to calls involving individuals who, as a result of some kind of mental health crisis or distress, may present a danger to themselves or others.
Elizabeth Mauro, Executive Director of Endeavor Health Services, said, “I also want to thank Congressman Higgins and Mayor Brown for their efforts and support in meeting the needs of those experiencing behavioral health crises in our community. We are excited to be building upon the model we recently began in Buffalo and to bring in the most promising aspects from other co-responder models across the country on behalf of our community. Strengthening behavioral health and police partnerships by working alongside each other can be an effective strategy in responding to mental health, substance use and other similar calls. Collaboration and communication between law enforcement and behavioral health practitioners helps to create more effective, humane and culturally and racially attuned responses thus fulfilling our mutual mission to serve our communities in the best manner possible.”
In addition to the officers on the BHT, other police personnel have undergone Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), which will help them identify situations where traditional police practices may not be as effective as the communications and diversion skills they acquired through their intervention training. With this additional federal funding, the Buffalo Police Department will be able to expand the number of officers who receive de- escalation and mental health training, purchase a software platform to provide critical situational information when officers respond to these kinds of calls while also tracking the effectiveness of the BHT and CIT officers, and seek to expand the hours the Endeavor clinicians are embedded with members of the Buffalo Police Department.
This federal funding may also be used to explore and acquire non-lethal tools that officers can use in behavioral crisis situations, extend the partnership with Endeavor Health Services, and potentially expand the size of the BHT. All of these efforts are part of the Mayor’s Buffalo Reform Agenda, which was the City’s response to local and national calls to reform police practices and embrace a restorative model for local law enforcement. To learn more about these reform efforts visit the City webpage at www.buffalony.gov. At the federal level, reform measures were also advanced in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, cosponsored by Congressman Higgins, and approved by the House of Representatives in June.